Business people love to ask this question: “What’s the next big thing?” »
In an interview with AdWorld, marketing guru Seth Godin says, “The next big thing is the last big thing. It’s been the same for 25 years.
Seth has written over 9,000 blog posts and 20 books, and I’ve read most of them, and had the privilege of conversing with and interviewing him in New York City the year before the pandemic. Seth Godin says the most important thing is that for the first time in human history, we can reach people on a large scale who want to hear from us with advance personal and relevant messages specific to them. It’s been the next big thing for 25 years. And along the way, people ignored that and said, “Well, I’m going to do NFTs; I’m going to do augmented reality. I’m going to do virtual reality. I will do this, and I will do that. They’re still running, falling into the dip when they should have done the thing a month or a year ago. By the time it’s on their radar, it’s too late to be first, and that will add very little.
Godin then develops a little more. He says, “I have a long list of people I care about who show up and say, I’m doing this thing like they started their lucrative podcasts six months ago. You missed it. And I don’t want to tell people the next big thing because they missed the one that’s going on.
That’s the one they should focus on: who would miss you if you didn’t show up tomorrow? What is the smallest possible audience of people you trust to give you the benefit of the doubt? If you don’t have this? Then worrying about what the next social media platform will be is a waste of time. It’s something everyone knows in the back of their minds, but chooses to ignore and needs a reminder.
Seth Godin created the first ethical business email and over the years has proven that businesses are capable of proliferating. His approach to email marketing from the beginning is still a central pillar of any digital marketing system today. Godin explains that spammers show up when a medium starts working. And over time, they win. The phone was a good start, but then you get a lot of unwanted calls from telemarketers, so people got unlisted phone numbers. Then email came along and some idiot wrote a book called Email Addresses of the Rich and Famous listing the email addresses of thousands of people. So people are moving on to the next video, to have better ways to interact with people.
There will always be a boundary where you can get more unfiltered interaction with people. As the emails got cluttered, people were like, Oh, I’m going to switch to texting. And how cluttered it got. People realize they can get away with spamming all they want. So they are moving to new platforms. Marketers are always trying to get people’s attention, but haven’t earned the privilege of talking to them yet.
Here’s the best part of Seth Godin’s interview when he said, “Stealing attention is not a strategy. Showing ads and lifts can be a way to get people’s attention, but it’s not a way to gain their trust. What Godin suggests is that companies should build communities. Communities are resilient and this has a strong network effect.
Modern day marketers are unsure of spending their days tweaking algorithms, tricking search engines, and figuring out how to harvest data from people who don’t want their data harvested. They always push ideas forward and go out of their way to make sure something looks bigger than it is. It’s not marketing. It’s about making things better by doing better things. Godin says, “What I’d like people to do is tell a true story that resonates, creating great ideas and services that people want to share.”
What a great reminder for me. Now that invitations are coming in for ‘kick off rallies’, ‘beginning of the year rallies’ and most of these activities are now back to ‘in person’ or ‘face to face’ gatherings, I don’t am not too thrilled to be dating the “Next Big Thing”. But I will stick to the heart of the basic truths and ideas to share and remind the audience that the heart and the basics are still the things that bring them success and help them navigate properly through an uncertain future.
We can all learn from Seth. He has something of value to share, and what he shares resonates. No wonder, at his age and track record, he is still in demand and would be the star of many major conferences. Likewise, content creators can learn from Seth. Gaining an audience and building communities is not about obsessing over clicks and sensationalizing and commenting on all the crazy things going on in the world. This way they can sleep better at night as they try to make the world less angry and a better place.
(Francis Kong’s “Inspiring Excellence” podcast is now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or other podcast streaming platforms).